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Architecture of Asia: Build a Pagoda

Architecture of Asia: Build a Pagoda Activity

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Art From Around the World

The pagoda is a distinctly Asian type of architecture that often includes many tiers (or levels) and multiple eaves and rooftops on the buildings. Help your child to learn about the cultural significance of these impressive structures as he drafts and builds his very own mini-model. Research the historical development behind the pagoda—its origins are said to date back centuries to the Indian Stupa, a Buddhist monument—and discover how this unique structure has evolved into modern times.

Start with a basic structural drawing, or blue print, and encourage your child to engineer his own majestic marvel. Use a ruler to make precise calculations as your pint-sized architect creates a scaled model from the ground up.

What You Need:

  • 10" x 12" or larger piece of cardboard (try reusing a packing or television box)
  • Empty large-sized (family-sized) cereal box
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Construction paper
  • Clear-drying, non-toxic glue
  • Clear tape
  • Tempera paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Optional: Modeling clay

Note: Refer to the image in this activity for guidance.

What You Do:

  1. Be sure to use a picture of a pagoda you like as a point of reference along the way to keep your child inspired as he makes his own model.
  2. Choose a scale to use. For example, one inch equals one foot. Keep this scale in mind when helping your child make all of his measurements and when creating all building components. In this case, if you think the face of your pagoda should be 15 feet wide, then the face of your model should be 15 inches wide.
  3. Help your child to cut the cereal box down from the edges or corners, and open it until it is completely flat. Cut the flat box into unequal thirds. Make the bottom the largest, the middle smaller, and the last third even smaller in size.
  4. Turn the largest box section over (the blank side should be facing out). Have your child refold it back into a rectangle (an open box) shape, and tape it at the corners.
  5. Ask your child to place the tape inside of the box so that it will be hidden. The flaps that were either the bottom or top of the original cereal box should still be at the bottom of this segment. Fold these out to create tabs that will be glued to a base.
  6. Repeat the folding and taping steps with the other two segments.
  7. Ask your child to cut four triangle-like shapes from the construction paper. Each shape will have two diagonal line sides and a flat bottom like a triangle, but will also be flat at the top (it will look like a triangle that has been chopped off at the top). These are called trapezoids! These will be the eaves for the first tier roof.
  8. Your child should use a ruler to measure the exact sizes of each side. Once the measurements have been calculated, ask him to draw the triangle-like shapes. There should be two long shapes that are the same size and two shorter ones that are the same size. They will wrap all the way around the box to create the roof top.
  9. Have your child fold the top of each triangle shape at the top (the flat part) to create a tab. Glue this tab to the top of the smallest cardboard box segment. Set aside to dry.
  10. Once dry, slide the box segment with the triangle eaves onto the top of the largest segment.
  11. Your child can now place the last box segment on top of the eaved segment.
  12. Ask your child to cut a piece of construction paper to make a square. Fold one set of corners together. Unfold, and repeat with the other set. There should be two visible folded lines. Cut on one of the lines halfway across to the middle (this is a great opportunity to talk about fractions!) to create a slit.
  13. Fold one side of the slit over top of the other side. This should form a pyramid shape. Tape or glue the sides together, and place the triangular pyramid on top of the structure as the main roof.
  14. Attach the pagoda to a large cardboard base with glue.
  15. Encourage your child to paint and decorate his pagoda however he likes!
  16. Optional: You can attach modeling clay using glue to add any other architectural details. 

Older children may want to make a larger pagoda. Measure progressively smaller cardboard sections, and created a tiered structure that is engineered to be beautiful in form and functional!

Erica Loop has a MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education. She has many years of teaching experience working in early childhood education, and as an arts educator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

Updated on Jul 7, 2014
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